: The last pope died two years before CNN was born. So then, there couldn’t be the dawn-to-dawn multichannel video deathwatch we have now. And, of course, there wasn’t the internet.
Is the coverage overdone at this stage with no real news to report except the anticipation of news (and the chance that this could go on for days)? Of course, it is. But as I said during Schiavovision deathwatch, the four cable news channels each fear not having the big story the other one has on as you pass by, and so they all have the big story all the time. Before we had competitive cable news networks, nine years ago, we got wall-to-wall coverage on broadcast news only for the really, really big news — assassinations, moonwalks — for such news was an expensive exception to their business model while, of course, it is the business model of cable news. So now it appears as if all America, all the world has stopped to watch the deathwatch. But this only shows how news has changed, how we no longer wait for it but it waits for us, how we demand news on demand. The cable networks have the big story all the time so that we can get it anytime.
What we need, perhaps, is one cable news channel that covers the big story all the time and another cable news channel that covers the rest of the news. Then we’d get what we can’t get now: choice.
: Dawn-to-dawn coverage of the Big Story sure messes up everybody else’s PR strategy. Marc Cooper is covering the Minuteman media stunt at Tombstone and he says:
Initial impressions of this event are underwhelming. Turn-out seems a lot less than that projected by the organizers. And as this is mostly a media-inflated story and with the Pope sucking up all the media oxygen, so to speak, this whole Minuteman show might be headed for premature collapse.
: My daughter just woke up and caught me on the couch blogging with the TV on. She looked at the TV and sighed: “They’re always talking about Pope John Paul II.” But she has something I didn’t have when I was a kid and subjected to the Big Story: Nickelodeon.
: Via PubSub, I found this astute media commentary at Constant State:
no doubt, the pope is news worthy, just like some of the coverage of terri schiavo and her case… but most of this has been a new level of unseemly. its like waiting for death just to finalize a story.
terri schiavo’s death wrapped up with helicopters following the white van that carried her body away through the streets and onto a freeway… to her “autopsy”. last night, most of the news channels had a camera view directly outside the pope’s apartment to check if the lights would go out. seriously.
i’d blame o.j. but after the e! entertainment channel’s reenactment of the michael jackson case… a 24 hour death channel is probably next. every sick celebrity better get those new living wills to include a DNTD (do not televise death) order.
I was at People when it discovered the newsstand value of death, previously a verboten cover topic on newsmagazines, thanks to Elvis. Then every celebrity who wanted the cover in life got it in death (it got to be so obnoxoiusly exploitive that when I started EW, I tried to ban death but my staff argumed me out of it). I used to joke that we should have changed the name of People to Dead People. And then I realized that there was, in fact, a successful magazine idea lurking there. I thought of proposing something called Tribute. But I had the good taste not to.
: There’s a lot of comment on the media coverage. American Idle says:
I hope I’m not the only one who finds the 24 hour news media’s uberobsession with the slow death march of his Excellency morbid. Do we really need papal kidney failure updates on the hour? His passing will hopefully put an end to death week here in America. I hope the pope passes soon and that his suffering is minimized.
I do feel for this pope and his many followers around the world. I might be anti-religionist and an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect this man. Quite the contrary. Pope John Paul II was a man of great charisma and while I don’t agree with many his decisions, most notably his hard line on birth control which is especially disturbing considering so many of his constituents live in over populated AIDS ravaged countries, I respect him as person who brought great solace to many people in this world. He’s also been an incredible traveler and his facility with languages is simply remarkable.
Like many people of my generation, he’s the only pope we’ve ever really known. The images I have of him in my mind most center around him traveling around the US in the pope-mobile or being “reported” on by Father Guido Sarducci….
Oh, no are we going to see Father Guido again?
: Fatmixx says:
Seriously, though, this deathwatch is killing me. It seems like the media has nothing better to do than speculate on when the Pope is going to die. It is wholely undignified how they all want to be the first to report his passing. One radio station here promises updates every few minutes. They are breaking in to network TV to report that he is still alive. I know that a billion Catholics want to know, but this is getting ridiculous.
And it was almost this bad with Terri SchiavoÖand she wasnít the spiritual leader for a billion people.
F@$k the media. I hate almost all the comercial outlets (and NPR counts in that too). Have some respect for the dying.
This just in. The pope is not dead.
We will be reporting that the pope is not dead until he dead, then of course, we will remove the “not” so that we will say the “pope is dead.”
Then we will inundate you with slick already produced stories about his life, retrospectives, montages, just as soon as we can say he is dead. There will be lots of shots St. Peter’s basilica, church bells, with background music of gregorian chants. We have interns working the thesauri around the clock looking for synomons for: somber. And we will be up all night practicing that serious, thoughful, slightly saddened look.
hold on. hold on.
No, still not dead.
Actually, my wife saw one channel put up the “flash news” that the pope is alive.
: Cathy Resmer complains about newspaper coverage of the pope:
Why the saturation coverage? I mean, I care about the pope, but frankly, his death won’t have much of an impact on my life. Could it be that covering the pope is easier than devoting the energy and effort to understanding the state’s Medicaid crisis, or the new pension bill? Anybody can Google the papal election process, or provide an overview of the challenges the next pope will face (two of the inside stories in today’s paper). But it takes a really dedicated reporter to get in-depth coverage of government bureaucracies. Of course, of the 7 stories, 5 came from either the A.P or the L.A. Times.
No, it’s not a conspiracy theory. Neither is it journalistic laziness. It’s the assumption of the need to herd, the need for everyone to have the big news. And it’s a good assumption: What would you say if your paper had nothing about the pope?
Still, this is an indication of a new attitude among younger readers about commodity news: As she says, if you can just Google it, why print it? That’s a good question, an important question for the news business. We do need to concentrate on what makes us valued and not on commodity news.
: James Wolcott notices this on the TV coverage:
I’ve been hopping from cable channel to channel for hours while working–keeping the TV sound low–and it’s been a procession of priest, priest, priest, priest, priest, priest–wall-to-wall white collars. Not a nun in sight, and barely a prominent Catholic laywoman. Some of the conversation touches on the ordination of women, the role of women in the church, the Pope’s stand on abortion, but the conversation has been conducted almost exclusively among men.
He’s right. I have not seen one women.
: Wolcott also asks what everyone will say on TV now that he has died; they said it all while he was dying.
How long will the TV OD go on? The mourning period…. the funeral… the conclave… the smokewatch…. the investiture….